Gregg Williams Involvement in Bounty Scandal Could Spell Trouble for Bills

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Updated: March 2, 2012
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If you haven’t heard by now, the NFL released statements late this afternoon reporting that the Saints defense had been pooling money for “bounties” for big plays made by defenders, and, more salaciously, injuring offensive players and causing them to be carted off the field. As you can imagine, this is not only illegal but something the NFL is likely going bring the hammer down on to everyone involved, as player safety is by far the biggest threat to the dominant position the league currently enjoys.

While guilt among the leaders in the Saints organization ranges from negligent ignorance to blatantly guilty, one guy in particular is quickly emerging as the prime suspect, and the Artestian instigator who will be accountable for being what appears to be the prime facilitator of the entire bounty system: former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. If there were any doubts about Williams’ involvement, they were quickly erased by the speed with which he came clean. Within hours of the report’s release,  Williams came clean with a statement owning up to the violations and expressing regret and responsibility, sort of. Williams’ statement called it a “pay for performance” system, which doesn’t necessarily include the points that the NFL is obviously going to be most pissed about; that the largest bonuses came for “knocks outs” and “cart offs.” (Things quickly got messier when Darren Sharper, one of the most hardest hitting players in the league, flat out denied that there were bonuses for injuring other players.)

And that was all before the Washington Post reported that Williams did essentially the same thing while he was the defensive coordinator at Washington.  That news, combined with the chatter around the league that bounty systems were a common practice means that there’s a decent chance that something like that was going on when Gregg Williams was the head coach of the Bills.

With that in mind, there’s  a few ways Buffalo could get roped into this mess. The NFL is not effing around with this, as evidenced by the time and money spent on a 3 year investigation yielding a 18,000 document report. Note: not word, document. That’s an absurd level  of depth that shows that the NFL is not going to let anyone off the hook because they forgot what time Kinkos closes. Furthermore, it appears that they are going after the entire Saints organization, with Williams standing in as the ace of spades. If the Saints are punished for allowing this to occur, and it turns out that Williams organized bounties in Buffalo, it would be conceivable that Buffalo may end up paying a price as well. And if these alleged bounty systems end up resulting in lawsuits,  anything’s possible.

Now, it’s important to remember that the story’s still extremely young and there hasn’t been anything mentioning Buffalo yet. Furthermore, the twitter sentiment amongst some players that bounties are common in the NFL may mean that even if Williams did have a system like that when he was here, it may not matter. Or he may have simply been too busy going 3-13  leading the team as a head coach to involve himself directly with the defense. And if it does turn out that Williams installed a similar system in Buffalo, it will be the 3rd such story and presumably with much less evidence available considering Williams was last coaching in Buffalo over a decade ago.

Still, the fact that most observers’ initial reaction that the NFL is going to come down way harder on this than Spygate (I’m not calling this “Bountygate”. It’s time to move on from adding “gate” to everything to say it’s a scandal. Unless there’s a scandal involving an actual gate, which will be known as Gategate.) makes even tangential Bills involvement a little unsettling. There’s probably already enough evidence to kick Williams out of the league twice if the NFL wants, but don’t be shocked if the Buffalo News starts sniffing around and ties the Bills to the ugliest story of the NFL so far this year.